Wooten family jamboree
Phenomenal electric bassist Victor Wooten brings his family band to wow Chico audiences
“Hey, guess who I interviewed this morning?” I asked my brother after a friendly phone interview with bassist extraordinaire Victor Wooten.
“No. But huge like that. In music though, not politics …”
Victor Wooten is huge in the music world. Specifically, Victor Wooten is huge on bass. Wooten, bass player with the Grammy-winning Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, is currently touring with his own eponymously named band and showing off his superior skills on the instrument at clubs around the country. Wooten has twice been awarded the Nashville Music Award for Bassist of the Year and is the only bassist to be chosen Bass Player of the Year more than once by Bass Player Magazine (three times so far!).
His bass fretwork has been called “jaw-dropping” (Innerviews online magazine), and he was described in Musician magazine as “proof that all men are not created equal.” You might just say that Wooten is a damned monster on the electric bass, and that would be true. Wooten can play the daylights out of a four-string, five-string, six-string—you name it—bass, pulling out all the stops, some stops never pulled out till he came along! Some stops not even there until Wooten created them to pull.
“Wooten has done more [than any bass player] since the late Jaco Pastorius to redefine the possibilities on the electric bass,” said United Press International. Like my son Benjamin said after hearing a recording, “It’s crazy. He sounds like a guitar player and a bass player at the same time!”
And keyboard player and percussionist. Hell, Wooten can be a badass, one-man band if he wants to, as his solo album, A Show of Hands, proves. He can also be equally stunning as part of an ensemble, as his work with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones clearly shows. Where did Wooten learn how to do it all (and so darned well)? As he says on his Web site (www.victorwooten.com), “I learned how to play music—in fact, I learned everything in life from my family.”
Wooten began to play the bass at age 3, taught at first by his older brother, guitarist Regi. Wooten explained to me that, being so young, he never questioned whether he could play the bass, he just did it. And since his older brothers were playing a number of different instruments, Victor would try out their techniques—guitar, keyboard, percussion—on his bass, as well as working on his bass chops. It never occurred to him (partly thanks to parents who encouraged the Wooten boys always to keep an open mind) that he couldn’t try, and successfully accomplish, anything he heard on recordings or live in his house from his brothers’ instruments.
It is two of these older brothers, in fact, who are part of the line-up of the Victor Wooten Band, due to hit the stage of CSUC’s BMU Auditorium on Friday, Jan. 31, partly in support of Wooten’s current album, Live in America (which also features stellar funk pioneer Bootsy Collins, one of Wooten’s role models). For the live show, Regi Wooten will be on guitar and Joseph Wooten will be playing keyboards. Rounding out the powerhouse group will be drummer Derico Watson (Wooten’s usual drummer, J. D. Blair, is on tour with Shania Twain). Others include rapper and female bass player (right on!) Divinity and Wooten’s bass technician, Anthony Wellington, also playing bass. Wooten said the show is exciting, energetic and entertaining. Funky too, I hear (no surprise there!).
But he stressed that if folks are coming to the performance expecting the bluegrass-fusion sounds of a Bela Fleck show, that’s not what they’re going to get. Some of what the group will be playing is new music from W3W, the not-yet-released album that Victor, Regi, Joseph and Derico recorded a year and a half ago. And there will be magic, Wooten added—actual magic besides the magic of the music itself!
Wooten is a big fan of magic. He hinted that one of the seven or eight basses he has on tour with him might float through the air that night, or, for that matter, so might he. But that was all he was willing to give away.
“Come to the show and see and hear for yourself. It’s a fun show! And come up and say hello afterwards…" And this last statement I felt he was saying not only to me but to everyone else out there. The guy is charming, well-spoken and down to earth—and friggin’ out of this world on that electric bass! Go see him.